Water – Gov. Sam Brownback is pushing the state to develop a water plan to at least extend the Ogallala Aquifer and keep western Kansas alive. The problem is that we’ve built an economy upon a vanishing resource. And those worried about the short-term loss of income can’t or won’t acknowledge the longer-term threat to the state when that water is gone. Brownback is thinking long term, as should the rest of us. He also knows that unless we quit talking and actually do something substantive, we’re headed not for a smooth transition into another era of farming but a hard crash.
Foster care – The Kansas Department for Children and Families reported that the number of Kansas households receiving public assistance fell from 24,567 in April 2011 to 11,867 households in April 2014 – a reduction of nearly 52 percent in three years. While such drastic and immediate reductions play well on campaign materials, they also carry real-life consequences that can’t easily be boiled down to political talking points. And Kansas is beginning to see those consequences with more kids in the foster care system.
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Wind energy – The Kansas Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee is paying for ads claiming that certain state lawmakers “voted to keep a renewable energy mandate proposed by Kathleen Sebelius that drove up costs for Kansas families.” Both the state chamber and Americans for Prosperity, two organizations with extremely close ties to Koch Industries, apparently are banking on the belief the Sebelius name, along with President Obama’s, are campaign winners. And if you don’t let facts get in the way of a good campaign, and Kansas voters don’t bother checking, we could end up with a whole bunch of wind-haters in Topeka.
Gun law – As political statements go, the Second Amendment Protection Act, which the Kansas Legislature approved in 2013, doesn’t bother with subtlety. It was an act of defiance of the Obama administration’s efforts to strengthen gun laws in response to more mass murders than most Americans can keep track of. Whether the law will ever be enforced is another matter. As for the Second Amendment, it is not in any peril.
Senate race – This year’s primary election for U.S. Senate leaves much to be desired. That’s not to suggest Kansans shouldn’t weigh in at the polls. It’s just that Republican voters face the unfortunate prospect of choosing between two GOP candidates who don’t instill much confidence moving forward. Options include incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts, who’s made an unwelcome shift to the far right, and an even poorer choice in tea party favorite Milton Wolf.
Computer security – A recently released audit conducted by Legislative Post Audit determined that the current level of computer security at state government agencies could leave Kansans’ personal information vulnerable and that many Kansas agencies aren’t complying with requirements to provide detailed information technology plans. It may be impossible to make the state system 100 percent safe, but the recent audit confirms that Kansas officials are falling far short of doing the best they can to make sure sensitive personal information isn’t compromised.